Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Juergen Heinrichs, Ph.D.


museums, records management, electronic records, vital records


Every activity undertaken by museums relies in some way on records and information. As technology becomes more and more integrated into museum operations, these records are increasingly being created, used, and stored in electronic format. The rapid proliferation of electronic records has left many institutions unprepared to safeguard electronic records that are vital to their operations from disaster, both natural and man-made. In addition, a historical focus on collection records has siloed records management concerns into registration and collections management departments, an approach that no longer suffices in today’s museum. In this thesis, I argue that museums should empower staff to take proactive steps to manage vital electronic records. Through a national survey, I assess the current state of vital records management in museums and identify areas where improvements could have a major impact. Crucially, formalizing vital records management through the creation of policies and procedures as well as a basic level of records-handling training for all staff members who use electronic records could greatly increase the security and preservation of these records. Taking these steps now will ensure that records are adequately protected going forward so that vital records are not damaged or lost.